South-Western Legal Studies in Business
SOUTH-WESTERN LEGAL STUDIES IN BUSINESS CASE UPDATES—EMPLOYMENT LAW
SW Legal's Case Updates is a SW Legal Studies service to provide briefs of the latest state and federal court cases. Review the summaries and, for cases of interest, select the case brief. If you cannot find a case of interest, return to Topic Index .
Title
Summary
Employee May Sue for Retaliatory Discharge for Refusing to Falsify Financial Statements
Briefed Case

Tennessee high court held that an employee has a right to sue for retaliatory discharge based on the claim that he refused to falsify financial statements in violation of federal securities law. The suit could proceed even though the employee did not report the alleged wrongdoing.
(Updated November 2010)

Dramshop Act Controls Determination of Liability for Drunk Driving by Employees
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that in Illinois the Dramshop Act controls liability for injuries arising from alcohol abuse. If a death caused by a drunk driving employee is shown to have occurred when the employee was acting within the scope of employment, then the employer can be liable.
(Updated November 2010)

Five Year Employment Contract Must State All Major Terms to Be Enforceable
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that employees’ claims of breach of a five-year employment contract, when they were fired after three years, fails because the contract did not comply with the statute of frauds. It failed to set out all material terms of the supposed agreement.
(Updated August 2010)

Finding of Partial Permanent Disability Justified by Record
Briefed Case

Mississippi appeals court held that the Workers' Compensation Commission was justified in finding a worker to be partially disabled, not totally disabled, given the medical record and the failure of the worker to diligently seek employment.
(Updated June 2010)

County Could Demote Firefighter for Intimate Relationship with Subordinate
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that the right to intimate relationships was subordinated to the interest of a county to maintain discipline in its fire department. Hence, the department could demote a supervisor who had an intimate relationship with a subordinate.
(Updated June 2010)

Employer at Time of Employee Injury Controls Treatment After Employee Departs
Briefed Case

Iowa high court held that an employee who suffered an injury on a job, and then went to work for another employer, must submit to the regular medical process of the previous employer since workers' compensation benefits stem from the injury that happened under that employer, who remains responsible.
(Updated April 2010)

Covenant Not to Compete for Two Years Held Enforceable
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that a two-year restriction on working in competition with a former employer was reasonable given the special knowledge held by the former employee and the investment the former employer had made in providing specialized training for the employee.
(Updated April 2010)

Employer Violated Employee's FMLA Rights by Demanding Too Much Verification
Briefed Case

Court granted summary judgment in favor of an employee who sued his employer for firing him for failing to produce a note from his doctor each time he took leave under FMLA. Once a condition is certified, a note need not be produced for each absence for the same medical issue.
(Updated April 2010)

Employee May Sue Employer for Fraud and Unjust Enrichment
Briefed Case

An employee who claims she was induced to leave a job to take another one offered to her, but after she moved the employer changed the terms of employment, could sue the employer for promissory fraud and unjust enrichment.
(Updated January 2010)

Determination That No Work Disability Benefits Are Due Is Upheld
Briefed Case

Appeals court found substantial evidence to support the conclusion of the Social Security Commissioner that an applicant was not due employment disability benefits. The disability claim was based on personal statements, not medical evidence.
(Updated November 2009)

On-the-Job Suicide Not Cause for Payment of Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that workers’ compensation benefits clearly exclude payment for self-inflicted injuries. Hence, when a worker killed himself at work, over apparent distress of an accident he caused, no benefits are due his survivors.
(Updated November 2009)

Employee Who Flunks Drug Test Can Be Fired Even if Procedure Not Completely Proper
Briefed Case

Iowa high court held that an employer failed to fulfill all procedural requirements for an employee who failed a drug test. However, the drug test was properly administered, so the employee could be fired and was due no damages. His attorney fees would be paid by the employer.
(Updated August 2009)

Banning Firearms on Company Property Not a Violation of Constitutional Rights
Briefed Case

Federal appeals court held that an employer had the right, under employment-at-will, to fire an employee who had a gun in his car in violation of clear company policy. There is no violation of public policy by the employer despite the federal and constitutional guarantees of the right to bear arms. Employers may bar firearms as a condition of employment.
(Updated June 2009)

Breach of Ethical Standards Not Grounds for Suit against Employer
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that an employee of NBC who complained about internal breach of ethics at NBC, and was later fired, had no cause of action against the employer for breach of contract or based on an exception to employment-at-will.
(Updated April 2009)

Whistleblower Must Be Employed at Time of Whistleblowing to Qualify for Protection
Briefed Case

A person who was a whistleblower before being hired by the employer on whom she had blown the whistle, and was then fired when the employer realized she had been a whistleblower against them in the past, is not due protection under the terms of the Maine Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, the Maine high court held.
(Updated April 2009)

Ability to Do a Little Work Not Enough to Lose Workers’ Compensation Disability Benefits
Briefed Case

Ohio high court held that a worker who had been declared permanently totally disabled could continue to receive benefits despite evidence that he did some work. His work was sporadic and more in the nature of a hobby than supporting employment.
(Updated February 2009)

Workers Need Not Be Paid Commute Time When Required to Carry Briefcase
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that employees who are required to take work-related materials with them to and from home need not be compensated for their commute time. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires compensation when an employee is performing work, not a minimal chore like this.
(Updated January 2009)

Employees Must Follow FMLA Leave Guidelines
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that employees who failed to follow proper FMLA leave guidelines set by their employer cannot, after the fact, claim they had a right to FMLA leave. Since the employees were fired for excessive absences, and they could not show FMLA violations, they have no claim.
(Updated January 2009)

Employee Who Quits for Fear of Breaking Law Is within Rights for Unemployment Benefits
Briefed Case

Mississippi high court held that the employee of a motel who quit during Hurricane Katrina rather than engage in price gouging of clients in possible violation of state law had good cause to quit and so was eligible for unemployment benefits.
(Updated January 2009)

Final Settlement of Workers’ Compensation Claim May Not Be Reopened
Briefed Case

Montana high court held that when a claim is fully settled to a workers’ compensation claim, the claim cannot be reopened later when the injured worker discovers further problems related to the injury suffered on the job. The settlement is a binding contract.
(Updated December 2008)

Employee May Collect Damages for Retaliation by Employer for Exercise of FMLA Rights
Briefed Case

Appeals court upheld a jury verdict in favor of an employee who was fired soon after taking FMLA leave during a busy time in the office. It was up to the jury to determine if the firing was in retaliation for taking the leave or due to the employee having been in an argument.
(Updated December 2008)

Part-time Library Employee Cannot Be Required to Take Drug Test
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that a city’s policy that all job applicants must, if offered employment, submit to a drug test violated constitutional rights. The job in question, part-time library employee, was not safety sensitive nor was there any indication of problems related to drug usage that may justify such a requirement.
(Updated October 2008)

Even if Willful Misconduct Alleged, No Tort Suit when Workers’ Compensation Covers Injury
Briefed Case

Vermont high court held that the state’s workers’ compensation statute is clear that strict liability is imposed on employers for on-the-job injuries. Hence, a civil suit against an employer and other parties related to an accident, is barred, even if willful misconduct and gross negligence are claimed.
(Updated October 2008)

State Minimum Wage Law Rules Govern, Not Federal Minimum Wage Rules
Briefed Case

Nevada high court held that a class action suit against an employer could proceed where the employees complained that the employer followed federal minimum wage rules, not the more-generous Nevada rules. State rules govern because federal law permits the states to have more generous rules.
(Updated July 2008)

Being Arrested on the Job Can Be Work-Related for Workers’ Compensation
Briefed Case

Oregon appeals court held that a worker arrested while on the job, who suffered an injury during the arrest, may receive workers’ compensation benefits since the arrest was work related.
(Updated May 2008)

Vacation Days that Occur During FMLA Leave Are Part of the Leave
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that an employee did not have the right to extend FMLA leave by adding vacation days on to mandated FMLA leave. Ordinary vacation days that occur during FMLA leave are part of the leave and are not saved for later.
(Updated April 2008)

FMLA Leave Rejected for Alleged Bad Back and Daughter’s Post-Partum Depression
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that an employer could not be sued for violating an employee’s FMLA leave right. The employee was dismissed for taking too much leave for a bad back that could not be confirmed and for her daughter’s post-partum depression—a condition that does not qualify.
(Updated March 2008)

Worker Who Falsifies Work Injury Claim May Be Dismissed
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that an employee who falsified a claim of an injury suffered on the job could be fired, and he did not have a claim for wrongful dismissal for retaliation in violation of his workers’ compensation rights.
(Updated March 2008)

Willful Violation of Overtime Rules Allows Higher Damages
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that it was for a jury to determine if an employer violated the law regarding overtime pay in a willful manner, which allows higher damages. It is also for a jury to determine if an employer falsely evaded overtime obligations by claiming seasonal operation status.
(Updated February 2008)

Third Party Not Liable for Worker’s Compensation Costs Incurred by Employer
Briefed Case

Court held that a cruise ship operator was not liable for worker’s compensation costs incurred by an employer on behalf of an employee sent on a paid cruise who was injured during a fun outing. The cruise ship was not negligent in its behavior so was not responsible for the costs associated with the injury.
(Updated February 2008)

Injury Suffered by Telecommuter Subject to Workers Compensation in Some Cases
Briefed Case

Telecommuter employee suffered serious injury when assaulted by a neighbor when working at her home. While she was at a place of work, the assault was not related to employment, so she did not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
(Updated January 2008)

No Public Policy Violation for Firing Employee for Exercising Open Records Rights
Briefed Case

Oklahoma high court held that an employer had the right to fire an at-will employee who demanded to see government records under the Open Records Act, which he had a right to see. The Act provides no employment-related rights, so the employee is not protected in employment.
(Updated December 2007)

Injury from Practical Joke at Work May Allow Tort Action
Briefed Case

Delaware high court held that when a worker suffers an injury at work from horseplay, and has received workers’ compensation benefits, there may be a cause of action in tort against those who caused the injury depending on conditions at the workplace and how events transpired.
(Updated October 2007)

Worker May Not Be Demoted for Filing Workers’ Compensation Claim
Briefed Case

Nebraska high court held that there is a public policy exception to the at-will law for employment that applies to when an employee is demoted for filing a workers’ compensation claim, as is their right under state law.
(Updated October 2007)

FMLA Leave Eligibility Counts All Periods of Employment with One Employer
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that courts will defer to Department of Labor regulation that to obtain FMLA leave, an employee must have 12 months of previous employment at any time. Earlier periods of employment can count; the months need not be consecutive.
(Updated May 2007)

State Health Care Requirement May Not Conflict with Federal Law
Briefed Case

Appeals court struck down a Maryland law designed to force Wal-Mart to increase spending on employee health care. The law conflicted with federal law that encourages employers to have consistent benefit programs nationwide, not subject to state peculiarities.
(Updated May 2007)

Employees in Nebraska Must Be Paid for Unused Vacation Time When They Quit
Briefed Case

Nebraska high court held that by state law employees who quit or are dismissed must be paid the value of “agreed to” benefits, such as the value of unused vacation time and the trial court may award attorney fees in such cases.
(Updated March 2007)

Exculpatory Agreements Not Favor as Part of Employment Bargain
Briefed Case

Connecticut high court held that an exculpatory agreement that was a liability waiver, that all employees had to sign, was in violation of public policy and could not be enforced. The employee had the right to sue the employer for injuries suffered.
(Updated March 2007)

Employer Not Liable for Negative Comments about Employee Performance
Briefed Case

Rhode Island high court held that the former supervisor of an employee, who gave the employee a negative job recommendation, was protected against a claim of defamation by qualified privilege to pass on such judgment.
(Updated February 2007)

Employer Can Unilaterally Impose Arbitration Requirement for Employment Disputes
Briefed Case

Appeals court affirmed that an employer, by giving employees the right to resign or protest an arbitration policy that was adopted, could effectively unilaterally impose the policy that was binding to employees who continued employment.
(Updated February 2007)

No Protection Due Whistleblower Who Reported Nonsense Gossip
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that an employee who claimed she was dismissed for reporting possible illegal activities to the FBI has no basis for protection under the False Claims Act or state whistleblower law as the information reported was complete nonsense.
(Updated February 2007)

Employee Who Loses Job Because in Jail May Receive Unemployment Compensation
Briefed Case

Minnesota high court held that an employee who was fired because she did not come to work because she was in jail could receive unemployment benefits. The employer refused to cooperate with the work-release program that would have allowed the employee to report to work, so there was no employment misconduct.
(Updated January 2007)

Employees on FMLA Leave May Be Required to Follow Leave Guidelines
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that an employer’s rule that employees on FMLA leave call the employer when leaving their home during regular working hours was a reasonable policy to help reduce abuse of such leave.
(Updated January 2007)

Agreement with Employer May Create Binding Terms of Employment
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that where an agreement was reached, evidenced by written notes, about a three year employment contract, it would be for the jury to determine if the parties intended to commit to a fixed term of years so that the employee was no longer subject to employment-at-will discharge.
(Updated January 2007)

Bonus Payment Reduction for Time Lost During FMLA Leave Is Appropriate
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that an employer did not violate the FMLA by reducing an employee's annual bonus to take into account the eight weeks he missed during leave covered by FMLA.
(Updated October 2006)

Illegal Alien Workers Have the Right to Enforce State Laws Regarding Work Safety
Briefed Case

New York high court held that undocumented aliens who were injured while working construction had the right to sue under state law to recover lost wages. Federal law does not limit application of state law in this regard, and state law does not distinguish between workers with legal and illegal status.
(Updated July 2006)

At-Will Employer May Change Terms of Employment at Any Time
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that promises made by an at-will employer regarding its vacation policy could be changed without notice. Employees did not retain rights that existed under the previous policy.
(Updated July 2006)

Companies May Dismiss Employees for Bringing Firearms onto Company Property
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that the constitutional and statutory right to carry weapons did not give employees the right to bring firearms on to company property in violation of company policy. The company had the right to dismiss the at-will employees for possession of firearms in their vehicles.
(Updated May 2006)

Independent Contractor Status Holds to All Parties Involved in Construction Job
Briefed Case

California appeals court held that an independent contractor hired by a subcontractor at a construction job was an independent contractor in his relationship with all parties at the worksite, so he had no cause of action for the injuries he suffered in a fall.
(Updated April 2006)

Time Spent Taking Protective Gear On and Off Is Due Compensation
Briefed Case

Supreme Court held that the time employees must spend putting on protective gear at work, and then removing the gear, is due compensation as part of their work day.
(Updated March 2006)

Non-Compete Agreement Not Enforceable for Physicians
Briefed Case

Tennessee high court held that a non-competition agreement could not be enforced against physicians unless approved by statute. Enforcing such agreements would violate the public policy that favors the ability of patients to choose their physicians.
(Updated February 2006)

Strict Liability for Violations of Family and Medical Leave Act
Briefed Case

Connecticut high court held that liability is imposed if an employer violates an employee’s FMLA rights. There need be no showing of an intent to violate the law for a violation to exist.
(Updated February 2006)

No Public Policy Exception for Retaliatory Failure to Hire
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that under Kentucky law there is no public policy exception to employment-at-will when an employer refuses to hire a person in retaliation for previous employment litigation.
(Updated February 2006)

Warrantless, Surprise OSHA Inspection Justified
Briefed Case

Appeals court upheld a citation for willful violation of OSHA safety rules at a construction site that an OSHA inspector visited unexpectedly. There was no violation of the contractor’s right of privacy and the evidence justified a finding of willful indifference to safety regulations.
(Updated August 2005)

Employer Can Give Lie Detector Tests Only in Limited Instances
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that an employee’s rights under the Employee Polygraph Protection Act had been violated when she was fired after refusing to take a lie detector test. The company did not fall under one of the exemptions that allow lie detector tests to be used.
(Updated August 2005)

Layoff Warning Not Requires in Case of Unexpected Business Problems
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that Arthur Andersen did not violate the WARN Act by not providing employees a 60-day notice that they would be terminated. Andersen's business collapsed suddenly during the Enron investigation. WARN provides an exemption from notice when the layoff is due to sudden business misfortune.
(Updated July 2005)
Firing Worker in Retaliation for Filing for Compensation Benefits Illegal at Any Time
Briefed Case
The Alabama high court held that under the workers' compensation statute it was illegal for an employer to fire a worker for filing for benefits, which meant that the cause of action existed whether the worker filed for benefits before or after being terminated.
(Updated July 2005)
Employee Has No Grounds for Wrongful Dismissal for Complaining About Air Quality
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that an employee who voiced concern about the air quality at the workplace did not have grounds for a suit for dismissal in violation of public policy. The complaints by the employee did not rise to the level of a specific concern about the safety of the workplace that could allow him to claim retaliation by his employer.
(Updated July 2005)
FMLA Does Not Protect Problem Employee against Dismissal
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that an employee could be terminated while on FMLA leave if the employer can show that the decision was made independently of the fact of FMLA leave. The law does not protect poor performance.
(Updated May 2005)
Employer Can Pick Among Four Choices for Calculating FMLA Leave
Briefed Case
The policy of an employer on how it calculated FMLA leave was legitimate, so an employee who wanted another method of counting FMLA leave, which would have been in her favor, had no claim against her employer for violating FMLA standards.
(Updated May 2005)
Injury Sustained During Company Picnic May Be Subject to OSHA
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that an OSHA citation to an employer for improperly using a barbecue grill at a company picnic, which caused an injury to an employee, was a violation of the general duty to provide a safe working environment.
(Updated April 2005)
Worksite Owner Not Shielded from Tort Liability for Injury Suffered by Contract Worker
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a food service worker who was sent by her employer to work at a cafeteria operated at another company's worksite could sue that company in tort for an injury she suffered on the premises. Immunity from tort based on workers' compensation applies only to her employer, not the owner of the work location.
(Updated April 2005)
Compensation Only Covers Time Needed to Recover from Injury or Disability
Briefed Case
Maine high court held that a worker who suffered an allergic reaction to latex was due compensation only for the time her health was impaired, not for the entire time it would take the employer to remedy the cause of her allergy, since she was capable of doing other work that did not impair her health.
(Updated February 2005)
Lack of Safety Equipment Not Basis for Tort against Employer
Briefed Case
Montana high court held that an employee who was seriously injured when he fell from a ladder could not sue his employer in tort. Workers' compensation was the exclusive remedy because the lack of safety equipment did not show an intentional and malicious act by the employer.
(Updated February 2005)
Hiring Away At-Will Employees from a Competitor Can Involve a Tort
Briefed Case
California supreme court held that when two lawyers left a law firm to create a competitor firm, and they took valuable materials from the firm and hired away a number of employees, the lawyers could be sued in tort for interference with an at-will employment relationship because the intent was to use improper methods of competition.
(Updated December 2004)
Birthday Spanking at Work Could Be Intentional Tort
Briefed Case
Minnesota high court held that a worker who suffered injuries when spanked with a wooden paddle for his birthday could proceed with his intentional tort suit against the workers who spanked him. He could not sue his employer; his remedy was restricted to workers' compensation benefits.
(Updated November 2004)
Death in Surgery Related to Work Injury Due Workers' Compensation Benefits
Briefed Case
Oklahoma high court held that when a worker died during surgery to replace a pacemaker that was deemed necessary prior to back surgery for an injury suffered on the job, the heart surgery was work related and so the worker's survivor is due benefits.
(Updated October 2004)
Promise of Long-Term Employment May Create Basis for Fraud Suit upon Dismissal
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that an employee had the right to have his fraud claim heard. Although the employee signed an at-will agreement; he asserts he was told it did not apply to him, so he resigned from a secure position to move, only to be fired two years later. The parol evidence rule might not be a bar to his testimony.
(Updated April 2004)
Disability Due to Fear of AIDS Requires Scientific Evidence of Exposure
Briefed Case
Tennessee high court held that a worker’s fear of becoming HIV positive due to exposure to a co-worker’s blood, which she presumed to be infected, was not grounds for worker’s compensation benefits. While the fears may be real to her, they are not scientific in origin.
(Updated March 2004)
No Defamation Cause for Fired Employee; Related Parties Had Right to Know
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that an employee who was fired for falsifying company documents had no cause of action for defamation. Supervisory personnel at the company, and an outside contractor that worked with the employer, had a need to know the information and were immune from suit.
(Updated February 2004)
No Public Policy Exception to Employment-at-Will for Employee Who Refused to Drop Criminal Charges Against Manager
Briefed Case
Virginia high court held that an employee has no cause of action for wrongful termination against an employer that fired her because she refused to drop assault charges against her manager, who was convicted of assault. State law concerning obstruction of justice does not extend to offer protection in such instances.
(Updated January 2004)
State Law Expressly Allows Nursing Home Employees to Sue for Retaliatory Dismissals
Briefed Case
Missouri high court held that the state’s Nursing Home Act created a right of action for retaliatory discharge for employees of private and public nursing homes when employees suffer retaliation for reporting suspected abuse of patients to the nursing home regulators.
(Updated January 2004)
FMLA Leave Requires Incapacity as Defined by Law, Not Employee's Opinion
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that an employee who was fired for missing too much work after she suffered a wrist and ankle injury did not have a suit against her employer for a violation of the FMLA. The employee must be incapacitated as the law defines that medical condition; one cannot declare oneself to be incapacitated.
(Updated November 2003)
City Not Liable for Torts by Employees Committed During Work Hours Due to Deviation from Duties
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that torts committed by city employees were not within the scope of employment. Therefore their employer could not be held liable for their acts, even though the acts were during work hours and they appeared to have authority to perform the actions in question.
(Updated July 2003)
Overtime Pay May Not Be Required for Employees Required to Sleep at Work Facility
Briefed Case
District court held that the overtime pay was not required when an employee was paid for working a regular forty hour week at a residential care facility and was also required to sleep at the facility. Because the employee agreed to the arrangement and it met federal standards, there was no overtime requirement.
(Updated July 2003)
Termination for Filing Workers' Compensation Claim Creates Wrongful Discharge Action
Briefed Case
The Nebraska high court held that a public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine is clearly created by the workers’ compensation act, which prohibits firing a worker for filing a claim under that act.
(Updated July 2003)
Employers Have No Duty of Care to Transportation Employees in Drug Testing in Texas
Briefed Case
The Texas high court held that an employee who claimed he was improperly discharged for failing a random drug test because the testing procedure may have been flawed, had no case against his employer as the drug test followed Department of Transportation rules and he was an at-will employee.
(Updated July 2003)
Blood Test Is Admissible Evidence of Intoxication of Employee
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that an intoxicated employee was injured in the course of employment, as he was injured when driving a company vehicle home. However, the alcohol blood test done at the hospital is admissible evidence to show that the worker contributed to or caused his injury, by driving drunk, so was not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
(Updated June 2003)
Employers of Migrant Workers Must Cover Transportation and Visa Expenses
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the Fair Labor Standards Act applies to migrant farm workers from Mexico. Hence, employers must reimburse those expenses incurred by the migrant workers that benefit the employers, such as the cost of transportation from Mexico and the costs of obtaining visas to work for the growers.
(Updated June 2003)
Firing Workers for Participation in Workers' Compensation Process Violates Public Policy
Briefed Case
Two at-will workers were dismissed soon after they provided testimony at a workers’ compensation hearing about the injury to another worker. Given the statements they claim were made by supervisors about their participation, they had adequate grounds for a claim of retaliatory discharge in violation of public policy to go to trial.
(Updated May 2003)
Employers Not Subject for Punitive Damages for Negligence in Supervising Employees
Briefed Case
Mississippi high court held that an employer could be liable for damages for negligence in the supervision of an employee who committed an assault, but could not be subject to punitive damages because there was no malice or gross negligence on the part of the employer.
(Updated April 2003)
Injury Suffered in Assault While on the Job Covered by Workers' Compensation
Briefed Case
An Oklahoma appeals court held that a worker at a store who suffered a partial permanent disability when struck by a customer while discussing a third party, was due workers' compensation since the assault was not purely personal, as the parties did not know each other well and the employee did not provoke the assault.
(Updated April 2003)
Independent Contractor Status Determined by Reality of Relationship, Not Assertions in Contract
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that when the state looks to determine if a worker is an employee and not an independent contractor, in which case the employer is liable for unemployment compensation contributions, the determination will be based on the circumstances of the relationship, not the assertions made in boilerplate contracts.
(Updated March 2003)
Worker's Compensation Benefits Continue when Worker Subject to Lockout
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed that partial disability workers' compensation benefits would continue for a worker who was subject to a lockout from his employment due to a conflict between his employer and his union. Because the termination of work was involuntary, he was to continue receipt of benefits.
(Updated March 2003)
Claimant Has Right to Participate in Conference Call by Cellphone
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that an unemployment compensation hearing officer, holding a hearing by conference call, did not have the right to refuse to allow a party to participate by cellphone while driving and then rule against that party. No rule prohibited participation in the meeting by that manner of communication.
(Updated February 2003)
Statute of Limitations Runs from Time Injury Discovered
Briefed Case
Iowa high court held that when a worker contracts a disease at work, but does not discover it for several years, the time requirement to file a workers' compensation claim begins to run from when the disease is discovered, not when it was contracted.
(Updated January 2003)
Worker Who Leaves State Not Eligible for Consideration for Workers' Compensation
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a worker who contended she was due workers' compensation payments for longer than the three years originally awarded, but who had moved out of state, was not eligible for consideration because she was, by definition, not able or willing to work in the state.
(Updated January 2003)
State Employees Immune from Liability for Torts Committed During Employment
Briefed Case
Mississippi high court held that under state statute, state employees are immune from personal liability for tort claims based on negligent acts committed in the course of their employment. A professor of medicine at a state medical school could not be sued for malpractice, but the state could be.
(Updated January 2003)
Self-Inflicted Wound May Be Eligible for Workers' Compensation Benefits
Briefed Case
Wyoming high court held that a worker who suffered severe injuries when he tried to kill himself was due workers' compensation benefits because the evidence was clear that he was suffering from depression, a mental injury, that he sustained as a result of a serious injury he had suffered earlier at work.
(Updated December 2002)
Walking from Parking Lot to Worksite Is in Course of Employment
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that when a worker was struck and killed while crossing the street from a parking lot to go to a construction site where he was working, he was in the course of employment so his widow was entitled to workers' compensation benefits.
(Updated December 2002)
Unemployment Compensation May Be Collected if Dismissed for Drug Use in Off Hours
Briefed Case
Pennsylvania high court held that for an employee to use drugs at work would be willful misconduct that would allow unemployment compensation benefits to be denied, but such benefits may not be denied to an employee who was fired for drug usage during off hours.
(Updated November 2002)
Public Policy Exception to Employment-at-Will Doctrine Does Not Extend to Spouses
Briefed Case
The wife of a police officer was fired in retaliation for her husband having arrested her employer's wife for drunk driving. Suing for wrongful discharge, the Wisconsin high court held that she had no case because she was an at-will employee and the public policy exception for wrongful discharge would not extend to her.
(Updated November 2002)
Leave Qualifies for FMLA Leave Whether Declared as Such by Employer or Not
Briefed Case
Supreme Court held that an employer did not violate the Family and Medical Leave Act when it allowed an employee to take more than 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave but did not inform the employee that the leave would count as FMLA leave. The employee had exhausted FMLA leave whether it was declared FMLA leave in advance or not.
(Updated April 2002)
Spider Bite Suffered at Work Can Be Cause of Disability
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the total disability of a firefighter who suffered a spider bite when he put on his firefighting boots. The bite eventually resulted in amputation of a leg. Since the bite was suffered in the course of employment, he is entitled to compensation.
(Updated April 2002)
Employees May Seek Injunction Against Retaliation by Employer
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the Fair Labor Standards Act provides employees a private right of action to seek an injunction against an employer who retaliates against the employees for seeking enforcement of some provision of the Act, such as the minimum wage requirement.
(Updated April 2002)
Police Officers Never Off Duty for Purposes of Workers' Compensation
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that because police officers are expected to provide assistance at any time, they are never off duty for purposes of injuries they may sustain in such instances, and so are eligible for workers' compensation whether on duty or off duty.
(Updated March 2002)
No Right of Action for Retaliatory Discharge by Independent Contractor
Briefed Case
Iowa high court held that an independent contractor, unlike an employee, does not have a right of action for the tort of retaliatory discharge in violation of public policy for filing a complaint against the actions of an employer.
(Updated March 2002)
Employee Must Show Intentional Tort by Employer to Avoid Workers' Compensation Remedy
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that unless a worker can show that an employer committed an intentional tort to cause injury, workers' compensation is the exclusive remedy for an employee injured on the job. Allegations of careless use of chemicals that could cause harm does not rise to the level of intentional tort.
(Updated March 2002)
Arbitrator May Reinstate Nurse Fired for Improper Care of Child Who Died Under Her Care
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the reinstatement of a nurse, who was fired by a hospital for substandard nursing practice that contributed to the death of an infant in her care. Federal courts will not intervene in such matters since collective bargaining agreements are interpreted at the discretion of the labor arbitrator. Reinstatement did not violate public policy.
(Updated March 2002)
No Wrongful Discharge for Asserted Violation of Employee's Right to Counsel
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that there was no suit for wrongful discharge for an employee who asserted she was fired because she told her employer she was going to see a lawyer to discuss false charges that had been made about the quality of her work. There is a right to seek counsel, but there is no public policy exception that prevents dismissal of an at-will employee.
(Updated February 2002)
Two Puncture Wounds in Three Months Not Good Cause for Quitting Work
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the determination that a dental assistant who quit work because she suffered a puncture on her thumb twice in three months did not have good cause to quit work and so was not due unemployment compensation.
(Updated December 1, 2001)
Non-Competition Agreements Are Not Binding on Employees When Employer Purchased
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the non-competition agreements signed by employees were extinguished when their employer firm was purchased by another firm. Since the agreements are personal service contracts, they are not assignable without the employees' consent or ratification.
(Updated December 1, 2001)
Ordinary Job Stress May Cause Mental Injury But Does Not Allow Workers' Compensation
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the determination of the Workers' Compensation Commission that a worker showed evidence of mental injury from stress on the job, but since the stress on the job was not out of the ordinary he was not eligible for workers' compensation benefits.
(Updated December 1, 2001)
Statutory Standards, Not Common Law, Determine Employee Status
Briefed Case
In a dispute between an employer and the state agency that administers unemployment insurance, the Illinois high court held that whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor will look to the definitions set by state stature, not by the common law definitions of those terms.
(Updated November 1, 2001)
Employees Who Are On-Call, But Not Working, Can Be Paid Less Than Minimum Wage
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed that nurses, who were paid below minimum wage for the time they were on-call, did not have a suit for violation of the minimum wage law. Since their time was mostly their own, not their employer's, the law did not apply.
(Updated October 1, 2001)
Restrictive Covenant Applies Only to Valuable Interests Developed During Employment
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that an insurance agent who had a restrictive covenant with his former employer not to exploit contacts developed while working for that employer could not be constrained from later contacting people he had known prior to his working for that employer.
(Updated September 1, 2001)
Employee Fired for Refusing to Perform Illegal Act Must Prove Illegality
Briefed Case
Appeals court reversed a jury verdict for an employee who contended he was fired for refusing to perform an illegal act-copy software on to a company computer. The employee may have believed the act was illegal, but did not prove that it was in fact illegal, so they have no suit.
(Updated August 1, 2001)
Delaware Recognizes Action for Breach of Covenant of Good Faith in At-Will Employment
Briefed Case
The Delaware high court held that in a case where a woman contended that the only reason she was fired was for failure to submit to sexual advances of her superior, she has a common law cause of action for a breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing in employment.
(Updated August 1, 2001)
Contractual Limit on Time for Suits by Employee Held Reasonable
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that an agreement signed by an employee when hired that any claim related to employment matters must be brought within 180 days of the event or be barred was reasonable. An employee who sued for age discrimination a year after he was fired lost his ability to bring the suit because it was past the 180 days.
(Updated June 1, 2001)
Proper Investigation of Sexual Harassment Claim Cannot Produce Emotional Distress Claim
Briefed Case
Appeals court reversed a jury verdict in favor of an employee who claimed emotional distress from an investigation of various sexual harassment complaints made against him. The employer had a duty under federal law to investigate the complaints and handled the matter properly, so the employee who was terminated, may not prevail.
(Updated April 1, 2001)
At-Will Employee May Bring Suit for Tort of Interference with Employment Relationship
Briefed Case
An at-will employee, who was demoted, sued the manager who demoted him for the tort of interfering with his employment relationship. The Nebraska high court held that while this tort does exist, it did not apply here because the manager was acting in discretion as an agent for the employing company.
(Updated April 1, 2001)
Wrongful Termination May Occur When Employee Fired for Refusing to Violate Public Policy
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a suit for wrongful termination may proceed against an employer who fired an employee for refusing to sign an agreement that contained a covenant not to compete, which is illegal in California. The covenant would violate public policy, so the employee has a cause of action.
(Updated March 1, 2001)
Quitting Work Due to Daycare Problems May Not Qualify Employee for Unemployment Benefits
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that an employee who quit work because his new assigned hours conflicted with his existing daycare arrangements did not qualify him for unemployment compensation benefits. The record indicates that there was no effort to adjust daycare arrangements, so he failed to show good faith effort to resolve the problem.
(Updated February 1, 2001)
Willful Negligence Required for Employee to Be Disqualified for Workers' Compensation for Injury
Briefed Case
Nebraska high court held that mere negligence by a worker, who inflicted an injury on himself because he did not follow safety rules, was not sufficient for him to be denied workers' compensation benefits. Recklessness is required for benefits to be lost.
(Updated February 1, 2001)
Anti-Retaliation Protection of FLSA Do Not Apply Unless FLSA Legal Matter in Proceedings
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the dismissal of a suit by a manager against his employer for firing him after he told the employer that he would not support his version of a dispute with an employee who told the manager he was going to sue for FLSA violation. The anti-retaliation provision of the FLSA applies only when legal matters are proceeding, not threatened.
(Updated January 1, 2001)
Illegally Employed Minor Still Subject to Workers' Compensation as Exclusive Remedy
Briefed Case
The Kentucky high court held that an illegally employed minor, who suffered serious injury on the job, could not sue his employer in tort. The state workers' compensation statute clearly includes minors whether employed legally or not.
(Updated January 1, 2001)
Long Time Employment Does Not Change Employment-at-Will Status
Briefed Case
California high court held that a long-time employee with a good record had no cause of action based on breach of implied contract or breach of implied covenant of good faith when he was released as part of an organizational change.
(Updated January 1, 2001)
Employee Not Qualified for FMLA Leave Cannot Receive Procedural Protections of FMLA
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the dismissal of a claim that an employee's FMLA leave rights were violated because the employer waited more than two days to deny the leave. FMLA procedure states that an employer must respond within two days. The employee had not worked enough hours to qualify for FMLA leave, so the two day notice issue did not apply.
(Updated December 1, 2000)
Drug Test Done Without Knowledge by Subject Acceptable in Certain Circumstances
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the Fourth Amendment rights of a police officer were not violated when his urine, provided during a medical exam, was used for drug testing without his knowledge. His dismissal for drug usage was proper given that he was a police officer and had signed a consent form to be subject to drug testing at any time.
(Updated December 1, 2000)
Jobless Benefits May Be Had When Parent Quits Work to Care for Disturbed Child
Briefed Case
Under Pennsylvania law, one may quit work and receive unemployment compensation benefits if there is a problem of necessitous and compelling nature. That applies where a single parent quit work to deal with the problems of his emotionally disturbed eleven-year-old son.
(Updated November 1, 2000)
Employer May Not Prohibit Former Employees from Soliciting Current Employees for Work
Briefed Case
Missouri appeals court held that a restrictive covenant that all employees were required to sign was unenforceable when it went beyond protecting trade secrets and other proprietary property. The company could not prohibit former employees from contacting current employees about outside employment opportunities.
(Updated October 1, 2000)
Drowning at Motel Pool While on Business Trip Covered by Workers' Compensation
Briefed Case
The Tennessee high court adopted the majority rule that an employee is completely covered during a business trip for any injury that occurs, unless the employee has deviated from the course of employment or is engaged in unreasonable behavior.
(Updated September 1, 2000)
Workers Did Not Willfully Cause Co-Worker's Death
Briefed Case
Trial court dismissed a suit for intentional tort brought by heirs of a worker who was killed on the job. Since there was no evidence of willful action by other workers that caused the death, workers' compensation is the exclusive remedy.
(Updated September 1, 2000)
Flight Attendant Grounded by Pregnancy Eligible for Unemployment Compensation
Briefed Case
Florida appeals court reversed the state's decision regarding unemployment compensation and held that a flight attendant, who was required by her employer not to fly for the last 12 weeks of her pregnancy, was eligible for unemployment compensation because she did not initiate the leave of absence.
(Updated September 1, 2000)
No Unemployment Benefits for Terminated Employee Who Refused New Job Assignment
Briefed Case
South Dakota high court held that an employee whose position was eliminated in a company reorganization, but was then offered another job, was not eligible for unemployment benefits because there was no good cause for not accepting the new position.
(Updated September 1, 2000)
Covenant Not to Compete Cannot Be Assigned to New Employer Without Employee Permission
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld dismissal of a suit against former employees who went into competition with their former employer. The covenants not to compete no longer bound the employees because they signed the personal service contract with a company prior to its merger with a new firm. Such contracts can be assigned only with consent of all parties.
(Updated September 1, 2000)
Severance Benefits Must Be Paid for Any Termination, Even if No Income Is Lost
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that employees were due severance benefits when their employer sold a part of its operations to another company, which rehired all workers without change in income or benefits. Since their former employment had been terminated, they were due severance pay.
(Updated June 1, 2000)
Lying on Medical History Form, When Relevant to Employment, Results in Loss of Benefits
Briefed Case
A Kansas high court held that when an employee is fired for lying to an employer on a medical history form, the employee is to be denied unemployment benefits for misconduct if the medical history was relevant to the employment.
(Updated May 1, 2000)
Employer Need Not Reinstate Employee Who Cannot Perform Functions of Job After 12 Week Leave
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed dismissal of a suit filed by an employee who was held medically incapable of performing the duties of his job after he had taken the 12 week leave allowed under the FMLA. The employer had no obligation to reinstate the employee after the 12 week period expired.
(Updated April 1, 2000)
Contract Requiring All Employees in Company Division to Be Fired Not Enforceable
Briefed Case
A contract between a company and a division director stated that if he was ever fired, all employees under him would be fired. After he was fired, the appeals court agreed that this contract could not be enforced since none of those employees were party to the agreement.
(Updated March 1, 2000)
Multiple Jobs for One Employer Count as One Employment for Workers' Compensation
Briefed Case
Virginia supreme court held that an employee who had two separate jobs with one employer counted as one employee for workers' compensation. An injury suffered in one job that affected performance of the other job would be compensated as if there was only one job.
(Updated February 1, 2000)
Substance Abuse Testing Company Owes Duty of Care to Employees Being Tested
Briefed Case
Wyoming high court held that a company performing substance abuse tests, such as taking urine specimens, has a duty of reasonable care to the employees being tested. Careless handling and interpretation of test results can result in employees being fired, as happened in this instance.
(Updated February 1, 2000)
No Whistleblower Exception to Employment-at-Will in Virginia
Briefed Case
The Virginia high court refused to recognize the claim by an inspector at a poultry plant that she was wrongfully discharged for telling government inspectors about her concerns regarding sanitation. Virginia does not recognize the whistleblower exception and the sanitation regulations provide no rights for the employee.
(Updated Janaury 1, 2000)
Employer Recommending Employee to Other Employers May Have Duty to Warn
Briefed Case
New Mexico appeals court held that when an employer provides a recommendation for a former employee, there is a duty to warn of possible dangers posed by the employee depending on the employment situation.
(Updated January 1, 2000)
Mental Disease Must Be Related to Specific Occupation
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the rejection of workers' compensation benefits for an employee who claimed that her mental condition was due to stress on the job. She failed to demonstrate that such stress was related to the occupation rather than to her personality as it related to her job.
(Updated October 1, 1999)
Public Policy Exception to At-Will Employment Applies Despite Specific Notification Term in Employment Contract
Briefed Case
South Carolina high court held that the public policy exception to at-will employment applies in instances in which an employment contract specifies that either party may terminate the relationship with 30-days written notice "for any reason."
(Updated September 1, 1999)
Employee Injured in Fight with Supervisor Due Benefits
Briefed Case
Employee injured in fight with supervisor is due benefits when the Workers' Compensation Commission believes the employee's version of the fight, in which he was the victim, rather than the supervisor's version, in which the employee was the instigator.
(Updated May 1, 1999)
General Promises By Employer Do Not Change At-Will Nature of Employment
Briefed Case
Employee was told he would be fired only for good cause and that employment was year-to-year. He was fired, not for good cause he asserts, in the middle of a year. Appeals court upheld dismissal of suit against employer, holding that more specific terms are required to change employment from at-will to a formal contract.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Drug Testing Physician Owes Duty to Employer, Not Prospective Employee
Briefed Case
Job applicant who flunked pre-employment drug test sued physician and lab for negligence, claiming he could not have failed the test since he took no drugs. Appeals court upheld dismissal since the drug testers owed a duty to the employer that paid for the test, not the job applicant.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Employee Must Show Physician Care Unreasonable to Switch More than Once
Briefed Case
Employee who had filed workers' compensation claim had exercised her right to switch to a physician of her choice. Absent a showing that the care provided by that physician was unreasonable, employee could not switch again without permission of employer.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Workers' Compensation Petitions Not Public Record
Briefed Case
Court affirmed decision of head of Workers' Compensation Bureau that petitions to the Bureau and the details of assignment to various judges, are not public record under the Pennsylvania Right to Know Act. Such petitions are not a part of agency decisions.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Employer's Move Made Getting to Work Hard; Unemployment Benefits Available
Briefed Case
Employer moved their operations 16 miles. Long time employee who did not drive quit and filed for unemployment benefits. Appeals court held that employee had good cause attributable to employer for leaving employment and could receive benefits.
(Updated March 1, 1999)
Personal Business Stop on a Business Trip Outside Scope of Employment
Briefed Case
Plaintiff was on short business trip, in company car, to make business deposit at a bank. He was injured in an accident when stopping by his personal bank before returning to the office. That part of his trip was personal and outside of the scope of employment, so workers' compensation does not apply in Nebraska.
(Updated March 1, 1999)
Take Federal Funds for Mass Transit, Test State Employees for Drugs
Briefed Case
Congressional spending power allows Congress to tie terms to state acceptance of federal funds. Since federal mass transit dollars require states to test safety-sensitive transit employees for drugs, Massachusetts must do so, so long as it takes federal dollars, even if the requirement violates state law.
(Updated March 1, 1999)
Partners Not Employees for Purpose of Workers' Compensation
Briefed Case
A partner in a partnership that has no employees is not an employee who must be covered by workers' compensation under the terms of the SW Legal Virginia statute.
(Updated January 1, 1999)
Managers May Be Individually Liable for FMLA Violations
Briefed Case
Employee was denied requested leave and then dismissed for excess absences. Court determined that FMLA had been violated and that the corporation and her manager, who had some control over her absences, could both be liable.
(Updated November 17, 1998)
Wrongful Discharge Grounds Exist for Employees Discharged After Improperly Given Drug Test
Briefed Case
At-will employee failed urine drug test that was processed by drug lab not on state list of approved labs. Appeals court held that wrongful discharge action existed since procedure used by employer violated stae statute concerning proper procedure for drug testing.
(Updated November 17, 1998)
Dismissal for Good Cause Need Not Include Legal Finding of Guilt for Alleged Misconduct
Briefed Case
Manager, not to be dismissed except for "good cause," was fired after charges of sexual harassment were investigated. His wrongful dismissal suit is to be viewed from whether the employer acted in good faith, not whether the misconduct actually occurred.
(Updated May 29, 1998)
Wisconsin Worker's Compensation Act Exclusive Remedy for Harassment by Supervisor
Briefed Case
Employee was sexually harassed for a year before quitting and suing employer for harassment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Verdict against supervisor overturned on appeal because under Wisconsin law the harassment was an accident and Worker's Compensation is the exclusive remedy.
(Updated May 29, 1998)
Disability Award Must Be Based on Medical Evidence
Briefed Case
Ohio Industrial Commission awarded a worker temporary total disability with no basis for accepting the alleged disability. The Ohio high court held the award to be an abuse of discretion since no medical evidence was presented to support the claim.
(Updated May 29, 1998)
Reasonableness of Commute to Jobs Considered in Determining Disability
Briefed Case
Injury suffered by resident of rural community meant that nearest employment would be over 60 miles away. Colorado high court held that, especially because the disability made driving difficult, the claimant could be held totally disabled.
(Updated May 29, 1998)
Heart Attack Suffered On Business Trip Not Job Related
Briefed Case
Employee suffered heart attack while on a business trip and later died in hospital in a city away from home. Workers' compensation claim denied because the heart attack, and the subsequent problems in the hospital, were not attributable to employment.
(Updated May 29, 1998)
Employer Not Responsible for Employee's Rape of Hitchhiker
Briefed Case
Domino's delivery man picked up a woman waiting for a bus and raped her. Her suit for negligent hiring against Domino's for not having checked the employee's criminal past did not show evidence of a special relationship between Domino's and the victim that created a duty.
(Updated May 29, 1998)
Whistleblower Act Protects Employee Reporting on Own Agency
Briefed Case
Alaska supreme court upheld a jury verdict for a former state employee who sued for violation of Whistleblower Act. The court held that the reports that employees make to their employing agency are protected by the Act.
(Updated 3-11-98)
Treatment of Stress Disorder Not Arising from Worker's Injury Not Compensable
Briefed Case
Worker suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from an accident in which his truck killed the driver of a car and seriously injured a passenger. Under Arkansas law, compensation is not provided for mental injuries unless they arise from physical injuries suffered by a worker.
(Updated 2-3-98)
WARN Notification Date Is That When Workers Actually Employed
Briefed Case
Seasonal workers told at the end of a harvest season that they would not be recalled during the next harvest, which began in more than 60 days, did not have a claim under WARN. The law takes effect while workers are actually working, not when there is some expectation of future work.
(Updated 2-3-98)
Assurances of Job Stability Meaningless in At-Will Employment Dispute
Briefed Case
Employee was lured from existing job in Massachusetts to one in North Carolina that he was told was a secure position given good performance. Soon after moving, he was fired without cause. North Carolina high court rejected jury verdict for plaintiff, holding at-will employment has few exceptions.
(Updated 12-29-97)
Diet Alteration for Chemical Sensitivity Held Compensable Under Workers' Compensation
Briefed Case
Worker became sensitive to chemicals and subject to respiratory irritation after exposure to formaldehyde on the job. Workers' Compensation Board order that employer help support a chemical free diet, vitamin supplements, and air purifier upheld by appeals court.
(Updated 12-29-97)
Employee Can Be Canned for Questioning Legality of Employer's Act
Briefed Case
Jury damage award to at-will employee who was discharged soon after questioning legality of invoice overturned by appeals court. Texas common law only allows wrongful discharge suit when employee refuses to commit illegal act, not when employee questions legality of act.
(Updated 12-29-97)
No At-Will Public Policy Protection for Pregnant Workers
Briefed Case
Pregnant worker was fired when she demanded a transfer to another position because of her pregnancy. Employer offered to treat her the same as any other employee who made such a request.
(Updated 12-29-97)
OSHA No Basis for Public Policy Exception to At-Will Dismissal in Oklahoma
Briefed Case
Employee fired for protesting new safety procedures as less safe than previous procedure may not claim a public policy exception to at-will dismissal based on federal or state OSHA protection.
(Updated 11-14-97)
No Pain, No Pay, No Unemployment Comp
Briefed Case
Newly hired police officer made no effort to get into shape to pass physical test required of all officers. Knowing he would be dismissed if he did not get into shape, he made no effort to do so. Unemployment compensation is not due former employees who engage in such misconduct.
(Updated 11-14-97)
Plaintiff Discomfort After On-The-Job Sexual Harassment Deemed Non-Actionable
Briefed Case
Employee complained of sexual harassment by co-worker, who was warned he would be fired if there were any more incidents. There were no further incidents, but the woman was uncomfortable knowing the man was around. She said she could not work there if he remained, which he did, so she quit. Claim of sex discrimination against her employer dismissed.
(Updated 10-15-97)
Totally Disabled Employee Cannot Appeal to Americans With Disability Act
Briefed Case
Employee injured on the job applied for and was awarded temporary total disability benefits under workers' compensation. She then sued her employer for not making accommodation for her disability. Appeals court held that total disability by definition means unable to work, so ADA does not apply.
(Updated 10-15-97)
Clock and Heart Run Out on Worker's Compensation Claim
Briefed Case
Employee did not know his heart attack may have been job related until after the statute of limitations expired. Connecticut Supreme Court holds firm on time limitations for filing workers' compensation claim. Heart attack was probably not job related anyway.
(Updated 10-3-97)
Depression from Being Disciplined at Work Eligible for Workers' Compensation Briefed Case
Teacher was disciplined by her school principal for having struck a child. The conflict over the incident caused her to become depressed and unable to work. Hawai'i Supreme Court holds that since the depression arose over a work incident, the teacher may collect workers' compensation.
(Updated 10-3-97)
Dismissal for Lack of Skills Not Evidence of Age Discrimination
Briefed Case
A long-time employee of Honeywell was laid off with other employees who ranked low on a skill evaluation of all employees to determine which ones would best fit the needs of the company. The claim that the skill evaluation was a pretext for age discrimination was dismissed.
(Updated 10-3-97)
No Law Against Demanding Parent/Employees Work Long Hours
Briefed Case
Single mother was told her work hours would be normal, but they were soon extended into the evening and weekend. She was fired for refusing to work extra time. Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts holds that no public policy exceptions to employment-at-will protects employees in such situations.
(Updated 10-3-97)
Pick a Fight, Get Workers' Compensation
Briefed Case
An employee called another employee racially insulting names. In response, the insulted co-worker hit him. Supreme Court of Oregon holds that the injuries from the assault arose in the course of employment and that, although the employee insulted his co-worker, he was not an active participant in the assault, so he was awarded workers' compensation for his injuries.
(Updated 10-3-97)
Sinful Employee Due EEO Protection for Lack of Faith
Briefed Case
Police chief announced that the police department was "God's house." He clashed with an employee who refused to be saved. They also clashed about department policy. Appeals court held that employee could speak out on department policy and could sue for religious discrimination both for the chief's infliction of his views and for discrimination against her for lack of religious beliefs.
(Updated 10-3-97)
Tired Busdriver Tirelessly Pursues and Wins Worker's Compensation Claim After Seven Years
Briefed Case
Court of Appeals reversed Department of Worker's Compensation decision against tired Greyhound busdriver who was assaulted on the way to an employer paid, Washington D.C. hotel room despite the fact it was located in the employee's home city; the Court of Appeals deemed the assault "related to or incidental to his employment."
(Updated September 12, 1997)

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